Lizzard Loves Blue Sky Snow Covered Vail

Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday Recap 1/18/19- Dad's Birthday, Choo choo to Booked, Snow fun, Oatmeal S'mores Cookie Recipe, "You Should Actually Send That Thank You Note",

Happy Friday! Winter storm warning here this afternoon through 12noon tomorrow! Hooray! Hooray! Hooray for snow!

1. Dad's Birthday

My Dad turned 84 (or 48 if you ask him) last week & we celebrated on Sunday evening. It was a fun, chaotic, loud and delightful party for Dad/Bump! It seems impossible that my Dad is 84, there are so many moments when he seems so much younger to me. I love getting together to celebrate these life events - its fun for me - but also teaches Lulu the importance of celebrating other people's big days!


2. Choo Choo to Booked

Lulu & I rode the CTA to go to one of our favorite book stores, Booked, yesterday to enjoy their kiddo music. The store is just delightful, with a wonderful selection of kiddo books (plus some grown up ones too) and a cozy atmosphere. The owner is warm and welcoming every time we visit & is more than happy to order books we want that she doesn't have in stock.
Lulu enjoyed the music for approximately 5 minutes before she demanded "out" :(

This week I was placing an order for some books for Lulu specifically about birds - she's been really into look for ducks & birds when we walk on a bridge near our house. I would love to know more about birds and thankfully my wonderful friend & college roommate, Amber, is into birding already! She also happens to be a mom to 2 beautiful littles, so I figured she'd have some insight into little kid bird books. Of course she did not disappoint! In case you want to know what I ordered, the books are: "Birds" by Kevin Henkes & Laura Dronzek, "Charley Harper's Count The Birds" by Zoe Burke & Charley Harper and "Mama Built a Little Next" by Jennifer Ward & Steve Jenkins

As I so often do, I got sidetracked by books when I thought I was going to be writing about Lulu's love of trains :) But it is worth noting that for the bargin price of $2.50 you can bring your train loving little on the CTA to geek out!! Double bonus if you only stay at your destination for less than 2 hours.....you can go home for the price of a transfer.......a whopping $0.25! Lulu still talks about seeing Santa on the choo choo (when we rode the CTA Holiday Train back in December) I'm guessing she's a touch disappointed each time I tell her that, no, Santa is unlikely to be on this choo choo :)

3. Snow Fun

Man. I love the snow. It didn't matter that we didn't get a ton last weekend, it mattered that we got some!!

We went sledding with friends (& had pizza delivered here afterward) and went cross country skiing the next day.

We also went sledding with some of Lulu's cousins - so much fun all the way around :)

Pure & simple - wintry bliss!! Have you & yours had any snow lately? What's your favorite snowy day activity? I should mention that after we play in the snow, we typically retreat inside, light a fire, drink hot drinks & read. Lest you think we are outside & active all winter :)

I will be more careful with the marshmallows next time....these do not look very pretty :)

I don't remember where I came across this recipe.....Pinterest? Instagram? Did one of you lovelies send it to me? I have not a clue - such is life with mom brain ;) Either way - I had some downtime during Lulu's naps this weekend, so I made this cookie dough. I baked some of the cookies & brought them to my parents' house for my Dad's birthday party. They were really good. Sort of scary good. I made them open faced - it seemed honestly like too much to have 2 full sized cookies, nutella & a marshmallow be 1 serving......I am not judging if you would like to have 2 of these - but 1 cookie per serving felt much more reasonable!

What are you baking during this winter season? I love to try out long, lazy recipes on these cold, sometimes dark days. Would love to know what's making your house smell like heaven!!

Gratitude is sort of a buzz word at the moment, would you agree? I don't mind - in my most humble opinion we could all benefit from expressing (& receiving) more gratitude. Science seems to bear out the benefits of gratitude - I know I've shared articles to this end in the past - but these things bear repeating! 

This article is not talking about the thank you notes we write for gifts given - the random gift card thank you note that is obligatory is not what was studied here. The researchers studied the "big" thank you notes where the writer expresses big feelings & deep appreciation for the recipient's actions/help. Thank you for supporting me when I was going through a tough time. Thank you for being with me during a time of grief/loss. Thank you for your guidance as I navigated a career or job change. The big things. Sometimes we all feel these big feelings for small things, it is worth writing the big thank you notes anytime you feel the big feels. The researchers found they were not met with the awkward feelings the writers anticipated. Quite the opposite - receiving these big thank you notes made the recipients feel so good they rated the feeling at a 4 out of 5 on the happiness scale they were given in the study. 

If you could, by investing a few minutes & a postage stamp, make a friend or family member feel the 4 out of 5 feels.......wouldn't you do it???? I know I would :) I guess I do already - but I can always write more of these notes. I like to tell my people how important they are to me. Most days I couldn't get through the day without my tribe of family and friends. We are social animals - there is no denying it. We require the closeness of others. Its high time we start acknowledging the great import these people play in our lives. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday Round Up 1/11/19 - 1st Ever Book Review, Back at the Zoo, Back at Inspiration Corporation, Pack Your Patience

Happy Friday! This has been an odd weather week - spring in January - then right back to single digit wind chills. Another week of weather whiplash! Fingers crossed for some snow this weekend!! Hope you have a wonderful weekend planned and happy reading.

1. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott Review
I figure to keep myself honest about my New Year's resolution to read at least 12 books this year, I should track the books I read this year! Thank goodness my wonderful friend Camilla came over this week to catch up. She is well versed in the world of Goodreads and gave me a helpful tutorial! Turns out I had signed up in 2009.......but never really kept up with it, so I am back! Let me know if you want to be connected. Since I'll be tracking my books read on that site/app, I figure its a good exercise to write reviews when I'm done. I was saddened to realize that I forget books in their entirety...when going through the website with Camilla I found myself saying "that one sounds familiar.....but I'm just not sure if I've read it or not" so this resolution will help me remember what I've read (& ideally what I think about what I've read) over the years.

So without further ado, here is the review I posted to Goodreads for Traveling Mercies! And thanks to my friend Jay for recommending it!
This is my first time reading Anne Lamott and I plan to explore her other writing! She is achingly honest in her discussion of life, motherhood, faith and family. The book made me laugh & cry in almost equal measure. There is almost a short story/vignette quality to the chapters, they don't all follow a single story line (outside of the fact that it is her life/faith we're reading about). I didn't mind this style, I quite liked it actually, worth mentioning in case you aren't in for it. Great for anyone interested in a frank discussion of Christian faith without a single, solitary speck of preachy-ness - I struggle to handle preaching.....but love to read about spirituality and faith. This book hit the mark.

Are you reading anything wonderful lately? Let me know in the comments - I would love to add it to my "to read list"!!

2. Back at the Lincoln Park Zoo

Due to childcare issues (& then our "new" car breaking down in December) I've hardly been volunteering at the Zoo this winter. This week was the start of a new normal where I volunteer on the weekend rather than during the week. It makes so much sense since Chris is home on the weekends and I don't have to hunt for a daytime babysitter! I already miss my Wednesday volunteer friends though. The great news is, this week at least, Lulu & I were guests at the Zoo on Wednesday and ran into several of our favorite volunteer friends! 

I've written about the importance of volunteering here before; but I do think it helps me to be a better person. I really love having some things outside of our home that are just for me. I imagine it is the same type of feeling working moms might have about work. A place to go that is your own, full of adults, and no diapers! Add to that the fact that volunteerism seems to be woven into my DNA. My parents are both regular volunteers and offer all kinds of support to their family and friends to boot (myself happily included!!) I guess it makes sense that I would see the value in giving back.

My volunteer shift fell on an unseasonably warm &  sunny day - so the Zoo was, well, a zoo! Despite not knowing any of the other volunteers, I had a good day & met some interesting guests. I loved talking to 2 young sisters about the family troop of gorillas in particular. The girls seemed to have endless (& interesting) questions and stayed to talk through the answers for upwards of 15 minutes. What fun it is to see the world through the eyes of kiddos.

Hooray to be back in the cafe at Inspiration Corporation serving breakfast after a months long hiatus! Again, due to childcare issues I had taken a break from my regular volunteer shift. Its funny isn't it, how the simplest solution is sometimes the hardest to see?? Without going into boring details - I am able to (quickly & easily) take the train to volunteer and Chris brings Lulu in the car to meet me at the end of my shift. He hops on the train & heads downtown. Why was I so worried about finding an early morning babysitter when the answer was just so simple?!? Feel a little sheepish about not figuring this out more quickly - but such is life, right? 

Either way, all of the same comments about volunteering I made above apply here- except in this case I get to stay with my regular crew of volunteer friends!! What a lovely treat to see such wonderful people at 6:30am! An added bonus is many of the cafe guests are habitual and come on the same days each week, so I had many friendly faces to serve as well. 

I was relieved the cafe wasn't too terribly busy for my first shift back in awhile - didn't want to fall down on the "job"! I embarrassingly screwed up one guests' name - a guest I've been serving for years- and screwed it up badly. I hate that I'm not great with names and taking a months long break from a group of people doesn't do my brain any favors :( That aside - it was great to be back. I'm happy to be there to be sure. 

4. Pack Your Patience
I read a lot of New York Times articles it seems......maybe because they do a lot of advertising on Facebook and I click on their posts which perpetuates itself by showing me more of those ads?? Who knows/who cares, but this article, How to Be a More Patient Person caught my eye and was really interesting. I certainly feel like I could use some support in the patience department - I hate when I lose my cool in airports, traffic, or with Lulu. How reassuring that patience, like so much else is life, can be learned and practiced and improved upon?? I do not love rushing - so what makes me feel that impatient, rushed feeling so often?? I don't know, but this article gave several ideas of how to exercise one's patience muscle- so that it can become your default setting!

Friday, January 4, 2019

First Friday Recap of the New Year! 1/4/18 - Quiet Morning, Skiing, NYE Party, Fondue, Volunteering, Dogsledding

Happy New Year to you & yours!! Did you make any resolutions this year? I know people have strong feelings for & against resolution making......but if you want to read about mine, check out my post about them here.

So here we go, kicking off the new year with some goodness.

1. Quiet Saturday Morning

Chris & Lulu have their one on one hang time each Saturday morning, which gives me some time on my own. I took a snowy walk up to one of my favorite coffee shops to catch up on my blog! Being the Saturday between Christmas & New Years, there were so few people out and about. Very minimal traffic, I don't think I passed anyone walking a dog, no runners. Felt like I had our little city all to myself. The fact that it snowed enough to cover the ground made me abundantly happy. Gray rainy weather makes for mud....and mud doesn't feel holly jolly to me!

I am incredibly grateful that Chris wants his own time with Lulu, that he sees value in fathering her solo. It is such a treat, at this stage of my life, to have a couple of hours on my own. Particularly after the hustle & bustle of Christmas! Double grateful that Lulu woke up seeming much more herself, which was an incredible relief after a week of her being so out of sorts.

2. Skiing with the Bug

We have a bit of a family motto, sort of a joke, sort of not - that goes like this "It dosen't have to be fun to be fun" Its sort of a joke because it sounds pretty harsh and is quite funny. But the more I think about it - the more it actually rings true. So much of what my family does for fun would be categorized as a fuck ton of work to most other people. Such is the case with bringing your 20 month old to WI for an afternoon to continue teaching her to downhill ski!

Despite the fact that it is hard work for Lulu to learn to ski and hard work for Chris & I to gather all of our gear, load the car, unload the car, and then try our best to teach Lulu to ski - it is so worth it. Even on the tiny hills the Midwest offers us. Even though Chris & I each did one chairlift ride solo to ski one non-bunny hill run. Even though Lulu's feet were so cold by the end of our outing that she was near inconsolable. Even though we made 2 unplanned stops at Walgreens and Starbucks to get Lulu a bottle and some warm milk to drink from it. Even though....


Those things fade into the background of my memory so quickly when I think of how much I love skiing and how totally wonderful it was that my parents took the time and the days of sore backs to teach me how to ski when I was 2. I love skiing. It makes me feel so free to stand at the top of a mountain and know I can (mostly) safely speed down it. Skiing down a steep groomed run is the closest thing to flying I've ever felt. Riva's Ridge at Vail is the perfect run for this feeling. 


3. New Years Eve Party

Our wonderful friend Lisa hosted us for a beautiful NYE party in her cozy, perfect home. The Lulu bug was invited as well, which I was grateful for (not just because I like to spend time with Lulu.....but also because none of our babysitters were in town so we couldn't have attended the party if Lulu wasn't invited!)

I guess this season of life is one with fewer grown up parties. More bounce house type parties than cocktail parties....which is fine, but man it was lovely to have an excuse to dress up and go out as a family! The fact that all 3 of us were healthy made a huge difference too. Lulu really enjoyed visiting with Roger, the cat. Chris & I loved sipping delicious drinks, eating a million wonderful appetizers Lisa made and having some adult conversations!
'

4. New Year's Night Fondue

Chris & I wanted to do something special for New Year's Day this year and very easily settled on making cheese fondue at home in front of the fire. Something about fondue feels special and festive and anytime I have an excuse to eat 1/2 a pound of cheese.........count me in :)
Bubbly out of glasses that belonged to my Grandpa Dick & Grandma Helen

As with the excuse to dress up mentioned above, we don't necessarily have that many occasions that we prepare a "fancy" meal at home. As much as we both love parenting our toddler - it is deeply tiring! There are many nights that frozen pizza graces our laps as we sit/lay on the couch. So to have an excuse (& the vacation energy) to make a special meal was a real treat. 

Do you have any New Year's Day traditions? Tell me about them in the comments, I'm always on the lookout for new ones to try out. Fireside fondue might become one for Chris & me!

5. Volunteering with Family

Am I the last person on Earth to have heard of Bernie's Book Bank in Lake Bluff?? Tara, my sister in law, invited Lulu & I me to volunteer with her & her 4 kiddos there this week. We had so little planned for the days when Chris went back to work - it was quite easy to say yes! Plus (if you know me at all or have been reading the blog for awhile) I love volunteering! Oh and (same qualifiers as the previous sentence) I love books!

This place is incredible. A giant warehouse filled with giant boxes (think the boxes that Costco sells stuff from) filled with books destined for at risk kids. Did you know that on average, low income/at risk kids have 1 age appropriate book to share with 300 other kids? Which is to say, they have no age appropriate books in their home. Contrast that with middle income kids who have an average of 13 age appropriate books all to themselves in their home. Contrast that to a child like Lulu who has dozens and dozens of books all her own. 

This place is working to change those stats in the Chicagoland (all the way up to Milwaukee, WI) area. We did our part for an hour (was supposed to be an hour & a half. I was late :( ) to further the mission. Our job was to inspect donated books to see if they meet Bernie's criteria for being passed along to kids who need them. Bernie's Book Bank provides kids 12 age appropriate books every year from birth to age 12. They want the books to feel/seem new to the children who receive them. They want the books to feel as special as they are. After all, books are a window to the wider world we didn't know existed, right?? Is there anything more special than that??

It isn't easy to find a place to volunteer that truly welcomes all ages - so if you want to volunteer as a family (and who doesn't - it is such a positive experience for everyone involved) this is a great spot to do so. 

All of the staff were warm, engaging, friendly & willing to answer our millions of questions. The founder of Bernie's was in the warehouse the night we were volunteering and he wanted to chat and was excited to have us there. Of course I know he was the founder because I read through their website before we went & then again when we got home! 

Are there volunteer opportunities for families in your area? Do you volunteer alone or with your family/friends? I'm always curious to know how others incorporate volunteerism into their lives! Let me know in the comments!


6. Dog sledding

A stranger took this video for us - which I was surprised by & thankful for in equal measure! We took advantage of our tiny amount of snow to go sledding with Lulu last weekend. Another family was doing the same thing! Chris had what, at the time, seemed like a totally harebrained idea to have the dog pull us (being one parent + Lulu) down our tiny neighborhood hill. It seemed like a terrible idea to me, rife with the possibility of bodily harm, but also the possibility of fun - so I agreed.

Unfortunately - Chris went first & the other family didn't video it - but man - what fun! It seemed like Owenn enjoyed it too & it must've been a good bit of work for him!!

So thanks for the video family who was visiting local grandparents!! Sorry you don't live here so we can't be neighbor friends, but Team Kramer really appreciates your willingness to record our antics!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Year, New Resolutions.....some of the same too

Happy 2019!! I hope you celebrated well with family and friends last night (maybe into this morning if you happen to not care for small children?!?), we were lucky to be invited to a party at a friend's home - all 3 of us were invited! Needless to say, we had to leave the party by 8:15 since Lulu (at full volume) was shouting "go" "out" "house", never all 3 together - but it was pretty easy to piece together the fact that she was done done done with the party & wanted to go home! She was a good sport and made it well past her bedtime, I was grateful for time with my family, my wonderful friend & some delightful new faces.

Updates on last year's resolutions:
1. So this time (ish) last year, I resolved to blog weekly - to write a Friday Round Up/Friday Recap each week to ensure I didn't let this blog lay untouched for too long.

I am happy to report I blogged more than my resolved 52 times (not much more......58 times if I counted correctly) which means this resolution sticks around for 2018.

2. My other resolution in 2018 was to always have homemade cookie dough in the freezer. Seems so random, I'm sure. But this resolution was born out of the fact that I live to take care of other people. It is a defining part of who I am. I love for those around me to feel cared about & cared for - and what better way to communicate those sentiments than through a homemade treat? Reality bite though, right? We don't always have the time/space to make treats from scratch. My trick is to do most of the work when you do have the time, perhaps you quadruple a recipe for peanut butter cookie dough, making your mixer work overtime!

I am a big fan of  the saying"don't let perfect be the enemy of good" and to that end - I will keep this cookie dough resolution for 2019 despite the fact that some weeks did go by when the freezer only held frozen peas & the delicious garlic naan from Trader Joe's. I am updating this resolution to include keeping homemade dry mixes in the pantry; I made a few jars of pumpkin muffin mix from this Smitten Kitchen recipe before Christmas and was quite pleased with them. Not only do I love the way the ingredients look all stacked in the jar, but it was so much easier to make the muffins when I had the dry ingredients pre-measured. 

New resolutions for 2019:
1. Read at least 12 books this year. 
I'm quite certain that I do this anyway - but I want to be sure to do so! 
So far, I know I will read these 3:
1. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott (recommended by my mom's group friend Jay)
2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (my Mom's choice for our January meeting of Mother/Daughter Book Club)
3. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker (recommended by my mom's group friend Katie)

2. Manage my phone use.  
I made a place in our kitchen for my phone to "live" for Lent last year. It was a helpful reminder to keep my usage in check. Though, as with so many Lenten promises- my curtailing my screen time didn't last past Easter! I'm eager to restart my efforts - mostly because I use my phone as a crutch - to guard against being bored, even for a second. If I am bored/restless/anxious - I can click through social media to distract myself. I dont' think it serves me well. Given how loudly the Bug shouts "no" when I'm looking at my phone when she wants me to look at her - I think Lulu would agree :) 

3. Run Streak
I'm going on a run streak. I will see how many days in a row I can run at least one mile. Doesn't matter if it is outside or on the treadmill, but I am 2 days in & looking forward to more runs in my future!

I would love to know if you are resolving anything for 2019! Please leave your resolutions (or your reasons for not doing New Years resolutions) in the comments. I find it so interesting to know what people resolve & why.